The Trolley Problem
Q&A Radio: 1 September 2013, Question 3
I answered a question on the trolley problem on 1 September 2013. You can listen to or download the podcast of just this question below – or check out the whole episode of Philosophy in Action Radio.
Does the "trolley problem" have any validity or use? I often come across people who think ethical philosophy consists of asking others what they would do in hypothetical situations in which they are allowed only two options, both terrible. One I keep coming across is that of the Trolley Problem proposed by Philippa Foot and modified by Judith Thomson, in which one must choose whether to kill one person or let five others die. Is it valid for moral philosophers to pose the Trolley Problem to people and to insist that people's answers show that one can only either be a deontologist or a utilitarian?
My Answer, In Brief: The trolley problem is neither a valid starting point to ethics, nor signals a divide between deontology and consequentialism. Instead, a person's response often suggests implicit views about responsibility for acts of omission versus commission.
- Duration: 18:41
- Download: MP3 Segment (6.4 MB)
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About Philosophy in Action
I'm Dr. Diana Brickell. I'm a philosopher specializing in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I received my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. My book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is available for purchase in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck."
My radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on most Sunday mornings and some Thursday evenings. On Sunday mornings, I answer questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life in a live hour-long show. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers co-hosts the show. On Thursday evenings, I interview an expert guest or discuss a topic of interest.
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